Position: Scientist, previously Measurement Standards Laboratory
Field: Mass and related quantities
Chris studied at Victoria University, completing a BSc (Hons) in Physics and then a PhD in Professor David Beaglehole’s newly established research programme in condensed matter physics.
“It took a while to start my PhD research because we had to build the whole laboratory from scratch, but I learnt many useful skills, and my project on the optical properties of amorphous and crystalline magnesium-bismuth alloys gave some very interesting results.”
Keen to apply himself to work that had a practical relevance, Chris then worked as a scientist at the Physics and Engineering Laboratory (PEL) of the DSIR, developing new pressure standards. This turned out to be a good move, since international co-operation in metrology was about to expand rapidly, driven largely by the globalisation of trade and by advances in technology.
While metrology in pressure and mass remain his specialist areas, Chris has been active in a range of other metrology areas including density, length, vibration and flow. He was a guest researcher for a year in the vacuum group at the National Physical Laboratory, UK, and for 8 months in the pressure group at the National Bureau of Standards, USA (now NIST).
Chris has also been involved in the management and politics of metrology. During the restructuring of New Zealand science from the DSIR to Crown research institutes in 1992, he helped to write new measurement standards legislation that, amongst other things, created a national metrology institute – the Measurement Standards Laboratory of New Zealand (MSL). In 1999, as the Director of MSL, Chris was involved in the negotiation and signing of a global arrangement for the mutual recognition of calibration and measurement certificates (CMCs) issued by national metrology institutes. This arrangement has now been signed by over 80 countries or economies. Chris has also chaired the international working group that oversees the review and approval of CMCs for mass and related quantities.
The negotiation process was an eye-opener for me. It was highly political and made me realise that scientists need to be able to sell and negotiate as well as deliver on the science.
In 2017, he was awarded one of the world's highest honours in the field of metrology, the Asia Pacific Metrology Programme (APMP) Award for "significant contribution to the development of metrology in the Asia Pacific region." Find out more in this Scoop news article here.
Chris and his team, worked on building a super-precise weight-measuring instrument known as a Kibble balance, and it is expected that this innovation will soon be used by many countries to calibrate kilogram measurements.
In his spare time, Chris liked to enjoy New Zealand’s countryside either on foot or on an off-road bicycle.
Chris sadly passed away in December 2018 after a battle with cancer, having only just retired from MSL after 43 years there. An obitury can be read here.
This article is based on information current in 2011 and updated in 2019.